Christmas Eve armed raid foiled as shopkeeper turns out to be karate black belt

A hapless armed raider looking for "easy money" got more than he bargained for on Christmas Eve when he tackled a shop run by a karate black belt.

Sibu Kuruvilla sprang into action when an assailant came into the Leicester business he has spent three years building up, brandishing what appeared to be a pistol.

He and a shop assistant were about to close up at 10pm after a busy day trading when the man shouted for them to hand over the takings, waving the gun in the air.

Unfortunately for the unwanted visitor, 43-year-old Mr Kuruvilla is a 1st Dan black ban in Seibukan karate - and has been helping teach Leicestershire youngsters the martial art for years.

With a gun pointed at his head, the married father-of-two waited for the male assailant to get close before snatching the pistol in one swift movement.

He and his colleague then wrestled the attacker into submission in 13-minute struggle, using a leg lock which left the attacker "begging" to "please" be let go.

Mr Kuruvilla, non-plussed, said: "He came over me actually and I was like 'please don't hurt us' and you get to a point where you think you have to do something and you have to react."

"That is where I thought I could do something and I have the courage to do it."

Chuckling at the memory, he added: "Because my sensei (karate teacher) taught me well - tackle people when you're in that situation.

"I do a bit of martial arts, I do Seibukan karate, so it is probably because of that I got the courage to tackle him."

Asked if he thought the assailant had been expecting the moves, Mr Kuruvilla replied: "Yes, he was not expecting that - for us to react and to overpower him.

The Leicester store where owner Sibu Kuruvilla subdued a gunman (Richard Vernalls/PA)
The Leicester store where owner Sibu Kuruvilla subdued a gunman (Richard Vernalls/PA)

"He was thinking 'easy money, two minutes, two grand', something like that.

"He was a big bloke."

However, the assailant's attitude had changed after being pinned to the floor in the aisle of Leo's Super Saver store in Main Street, Evington for a quarter of an hour.

Mr Kuruvilla said: "He was begging towards the end - he was tired, he gave up I think - 'please let me go, please let me go' and he said 'I will not come back to my shop'

"I said 'you will not come back to this shop - but you'll go to another shop, so I won't let you go.'

"Then he gave up.

"I put him in a leg lock so he won't move, and my boy was on top of him to make sure he wasn't."

All the while, Mr Kuruvilla - a former artisan chef, who decided to move into groceries three years ago - had his two daughters, aged seven and nine, locked in the shop's back office.

They were able to watch the drama unfold "live" on the shop's in-store TV monitors, but were unable to ring the police because the phone was out of range.

However, both Mr Kuruvilla and his colleague were able to hit the silent alarm, summoning police who arrived 13 minutes after the man first stepped through the door.

News has spread of the brave act, with customer Graham Corbett, who served with the Royal Military Police, congratulating Mr Kuruvilla for his "brilliant" actions.

Leicestershire Police said a 17-year-old male was arrested in connection with the incident and has been bailed pending police inquiries.